Political Animal: Election aftermath

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Political Animal: Election aftermath

Ethan Brown

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It’s been a “fun” two and a half years (I say that sarcastically). It’s finally over, no more “I approve this Message”, no more poll-obsessed pundits and no more annoying political jargon. What we’re left with is our re-elected President Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, about half of the country didn’t get the president they voted for — a testament to our divided state. Many of us are apprehensive about the next four years, but as Americans we all owe a certain degree of respect for our president, even if we didn’t vote for him.

I remember Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008. My eighth grade class, plus the rest of the school, piled into the gymnasium where we watched the inauguration on a giant projector. When President Bush appeared on screen, our offended middle school audience booed him.

This was completely inappropriate. It is even more deplorable, that our teachers did not speak to us about this afterwards. It would have been an amazing opportunity for them to explain to us that although we didn’t have to agree with a president’s policies, we did have to respect our leader and applaud for him in certain situations, including an inauguration.

Later on in the event, when then President-elect Obama came on stage, a friend of mine (who is also a Republican), turned to me and proposed that we boo the soon-to-be-president to show the rest of the school that they couldn’t expect everyone to fall in line with their views. I remember telling him that he was just as bad as the rest of the school. To him, the disrespect was only wrong because it was directed to the wrong leader. He missed the point: that in order to live in a society where we can call ourselves open-minded and free-thinking, we as a people must have the ability to respect those we disagree with.

That means realizing that there are perfectly reasonable people out there who hold different views from your own. Because I am a Republican living in a sea of blue, this has been an easy conclusion for me to reach. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Democrats who are perfectly reasonable people. I learned a lot about their convictions and why they hold them. Although, I often still disagree with Democrats I talk to, I come away with an understanding of what and why they reached such conclusions.

If I lived in an area flooded with Republicans, I would have never been able to have such experiences. I would have only read conservative magazines, only talked to Republicans and only listen to conservative pundits. I would have bought all the stereotypes about Democrats. It probably would be equivalent to sending our country down the toilet. You get the picture.

Sadly, it seems that people in Skokie have adopted a similar view. People are surprised to hear that I am a Republican. Some even groan that I could be so foolish. I often hear jokes, sometimes even by teachers, mocking Republicans. Attitudes like this are destructive. After all, how can you claim to be a thoughtful citizen if you dismiss, deride and ignore the legitimate viewpoints of half the country?

Of course, not everyone acts this way. Many people I have met are not so close-minded. However, this is the exception, not the rule.

Our country is deeply divided. It is convenient to blame our politicians, but the real culprit is us, Americans unwilling to understand or acknowledge any differing opinions.